By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
“And Dinah went out... to see the daughters of the land. Shechem the son of Chamor, the prince of the land, saw her... and he defiled her.” [Bereishit 34:1-2].
Harassment, and More Harassment
For a long time now, large segments of the news broadcasts have been devoted to dramas involving sexual harassment, including voyeurism, investigations, plea bargains, and resignations. I am not active in the social networks, and I am therefore not involved in the raging “harassment” festivals in this realm. I suppose we can say that the earth seems to be full of corruption (“chamass”) and rape (“anass”).
We can thank G-d that He has given the women in our generation the strength and the courage to complain and to protect themselves against actions which were often hidden from view in the past. In some circles, harassment, exploitation, and coercion were – and perhaps still are – part of the culture of authority and control, with a system of providing pleasure, willingly or by force, in return for a reciprocal pleasure.
We can thank G-d that He has given women’s organizations in our generation the strength and the status to bring this subject to the forefront, to encourage those who have been harmed to openly appear before the accused one, and (sometimes) to appear in the press behind a screen, in an effort to remove this disgrace, “a time when one man controls another in order to do him harm” [Kohellet 8:9].
We can thank G-d for giving the judges the wisdom to punish the sinners without regard to their status or their roles in society, ignoring the high personal price paid by the guilty ones. In fact, the higher is the status of the accused, the more difficult is his fall from grace, and it may even be that the judges purposely ignore this factor (see the case of the former President, Moshe Katzav).
(As an aside: I can just see in my mind’s eye both men and women among my readers who will be surprised to see me defend the justice system of our land. Well, I clearly differentiate between criminal and civil courts and the impure interference of the courts, all too often, in matters involving nationality and issues related to moral values, the outlook, or religion.)
Danger: The Weapon of False Accusations
The accumulation of cases that have appeared recently in the press and their results, and the great power exercised by every “hangman” in facebook or every owner of a twitter account who sits comfortably at home – all of these elements have provided women with a powerful weapon which I fear will be developed further and which will continue to grow. Many stories are told of extortionist hitchhikers who demand to be brought to the door of their home, adding many kilometers to the ride, by threatening: “Otherwise, I will complain about harassment. And even if I am proven wrong, you will be called to an investigation, your picture will be published, your reputation will be ruined, and your boss will cut your salary. And if I am lucky, you will also end up paying me compensation.” If the “lady” is smart enough, it is sufficient for her to put a hand on the driver’s leg or on the arm of her boss in order to create the “smoke” that can be used to “prove” that there is indeed a fire. A scene like this can take place, with great impact, in every office, store, bank branch, or clinic. An ambitious woman can publish a text message or a WhatsApp cry for help, and she has trapped her prey – and there it is, a documented hint of “arm-twisting by authority.”
Does the law allow for harsh punishment of a woman who has made a false accusation or who blew a minor incident all out of proportion? Without such an element of balance, taking a high price to correspond to the status of an “offending male” – there will in the end not be any real justice.
Proportionality and the Guillotine
I am not a defense lawyer for the offenders, but based on the principle of “proportionality” which is very important to the legal system (and which has support from the halacha) I feel that it is important to categorize these “man-woman” crimes into various levels and not to leave matters as they are, with just two broad offenses, “harassment” and “rape.” How should we define “verbal harassment” when there are at least ten different levels in this category? Is a kiss on the top of the head without the acceptance by the woman a case of “rape?” I can just see the raised eyebrows of my readers, both men and women, in response to this question. “Does Rabbi Rozen want to defend the men who harass the women?” Absolutely not! I merely want to remind everybody that the open market of the media loves nothing better than a guillotine!
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Here are a number of quotes from the Midrash, without any intention of implying something specific, about the subject of Dinah, who was raped:
“‘And Dinah, daughter of Leah... to see the daughters of the land.’ – It is noted that she is Leah’s daughter because she went out. Leah too went out, as is written, ‘And Leah went out to meet him’ [Bereishit 30:16]. This corresponds to the common folk saying, ‘Like mother, like daughter.’” [Rashi, based on Bereishit Rabba 80].
“‘To see the daughters of the land’ – She went out to show her beauty.” [Midrash Lekach Tov]. “To see and to be seen.” [Tanchuma, Vayishlach, 10].
“This can be compared to one who had ‘a pound of flesh.’ As soon as the bird of prey discovered it, the bird swooped down and took it.” [Bereishit Rabba 80].